The United States has been successful in containing the momentum of ISIS, but more needs to be done to “completely decapitate” their operations, President Obama said in an exclusive interview with ABC News’ Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos.
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“I don't think they're gaining strength,” the president told Stephanopoulos in an interview at the White House Thursday. “From the start our goal has been first to contain, and we have contained them. They have not gained ground in Iraq. And in Syria it -- they'll come in, they'll leave.
"But you don't see this systematic march by ISIL across the terrain," he added, using the government's acronym for ISIS.
“What we have not yet been able to do is to completely decapitate their command and control structures. We've made some progress in trying to reduce the flow of foreign fighters,” Obama said. “Part of our goal has to be to recruit more effective Sunni partners in Iraq to really go on offense rather than simply engage in defense.”
The president made his comments on the same day U.S. forces conducted an airstrike in Raqqa, Syria, targeting Mohamed Emwazi, the British citizen and ISIS terrorist known as “Jihadi John.” The jihadist was the main figure in the ISIS videos showing the brutal executions of American and western hostages, including U.S. journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff.
The president said his team has crafted a strategy that “contained the momentum that ISIL had gained,” but said there will continue to be problems in the region “until we get the Syria political situation resolved.”
“Until [Syrian President Bashar al-] Assad is no longer a lightning rod for Sunnis in Syria and that entire region is no longer a proxy war for Shia-Sunni conflict, we're going to continue to have problems,” he said. “I would distinguish between making sure that the place is perfect -- that's not going to happen anytime soon -- with making sure that ISIL continues to shrink in its scope of operations until it no longer poses the kind of threat that it does.”
“Over the last several years I've had access to all the best military minds in the country and all the best foreign policy minds in the country, and I'm not running for office. And so my only interest is in success,” the president said.